The technology for the two hyperpolarized imaging platforms is based on breakthroughs in the quantum control of diamond quantum physics (NV centres). In research conducted through the ERC Synergy Grant BioQ "Diamond quantum devices and biology" and an associated ERC Proof of Concepts grant at UULM, this technology has been combined with novel diamond bio-chemistry research to demonstrate feasibility for applications in hyperpolarized imaging.
The NV colour centre in diamond consists of a substitutional nitrogen atom (N) that replaces a carbon atom and is associated with a vacancy (V) in an adjacent lattice site of the diamond crystal. At room temperature, the electron spin native to the NV centre can be initialized to a highly polarized quantum state by microsecond-long laser pulses and this polarization can then be transferred to surrounding nuclear spins with the support of microwave radiation. HYPERDIAMOND uses this unique control of NV centres in diamonds to polarize, at room temperature, 13C nuclear spins that form either part of the crystal lattice of nanodiamonds or are part of external molecules, serving as the basis for the two hyperpolarization technologies.
The use of NV centres in diamonds for room-temperature optical hyperpolarization of ¹³C nuclear spins is a "game changer" technology for hyperpolarization. However, exploiting the technology and bridging the gap from the laboratory environment to the market place requires addressing several key challenges, which will only be successful in a multidisciplinary research team.
The four-year scientific and technical programme of the HYPERDIAMOND project will establish the solutions required for developing this novel hyperpolarization technology through three major phases - Phase I: Research, Phase II: Innovation & Phase III: Assessment.